New baby. Extended sabbatical. Major health crisis. Six months abroad…heck, years abroad.
People ebb and flow out of big businesses without a peep. But when you’re a business of one – or even five – who’s left steering the brand awareness ship while you go island hopping?
I had my major health crisis just 6 months after launching my own consulting business. You know what happened? Well, for one thing, time did not implode upon itself – everything that seemed urgent faded away, as it should. While I did miss a conference call the day after my brain aneurysm ruptured (I bet the client never thought they’d hear that excuse from my husband), the world did not end. But practically speaking, the blog went cold, the networking ceased and the cacophony of market noise enveloped my absence like a black hole. In the blink of an eye, my business profile faded.
So how is it that 4+ years later, my business is thriving more than it ever has? How is it that I had the best business year financially not long after I fell into the void?
If you have to take a voluntary – or unexpected – break from your business, here are four tips that served me well in cranking up the brand awareness engine again. These are also useful if you simply need to revive your personal brand after a long absence:
- Rev up your blogging: When you emerge from your cocoon, one of the few things you have in your control is the ability to add useful content to the world again. And besides, perhaps your client work is dried up for now so what else have you got to do? Build out a new editorial calendar and maybe amp up your blogging for the time being. Maybe you normally blog once a week, so increase that to twice. Make your content super useful, super sexy and super keyword-rich so you can back on the web radar again. Combine this with sending out a few Tweets and Facebook updates about your latest post and you can boost your exposure efforts.
- Jump into the online conversation: Again, you can control your content output, so leverage all those great new blog posts in online forums or communities like Biznik, Bzzhive or Focus – or whatever industry-specific places reign supreme for you. Start commenting on relevant blogs or articles on a consistent basis to raise your profile again. Just target 3 per day at about 30 minutes each day. Or maybe pitch a few contributed articles to media outlets like American Express Open Forum or Entrepreneur.com for even more exposure and street cred.
- Invite key people to your welcome back party: When I returned from my hiatus, I reached out to several colleagues with phone calls or personalized emails letting them know where I’d been and that I was up to my old tricks again and ready for action. You may think people know what’s going on with you but really, they don’t. They are too busy. Reach out individually to trusted contacts via email or Linked In and take them out for coffee to let them know what business or clients you are looking for and kindly ask if they can spread the word for you. Don’t be afraid to ask “competitors” as well – they might be so busy that they are turning folks away so you can help them out, and maybe give them a referral fee in exchange. And always ask how you can help them in return. People are kinder than you think – and it’s a great way to reconnect.
- Get out there live and in person: Pick 2-3 key networking groups or clubs and start amping up your face time again. Attend lunches, happy hours, book signings. When I was returning to work after my health issues, this was quite a challenge for me as I was still recovering and suffering from massive fatigue – plus I could drive at the time. But I forced myself to try to go to one live event per week. And I asked gracious friends to drive me. They were only too happy to help, since they didn’t want to go alone either!
There are some people on the periphery of my professional circle who did not even realize I had been out of commission for six months – not sure if that’s good or bad! But it tells me I did a good job of trying to stay connected and present as much as I could.